World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Middle Eastern Christians at Home and in Diaspora (124) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Georgetown University (USA)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Yvonne Haddad

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Yvonne Haddad, Georgetown University

Discussant: Barbara Stowasser

Paper Presnter: Yvonne Haddad (Georgetown University), "Contribution of Arab-American Christian Scholars to Middle Eastern Studies in the United States"
It will demonstrate how the initial efforts to provide accurate and "corrective" information was pioneered by Arab Christins in the 1970s. It will analyze the dynamic changes taking place in the Arab American community reflecting events overseas which have led to the fragmentation of the Arab community and its efforts.

Paper presenter: Melanie Trexler (Georgetown University), "Arab Baptists in America: The Importance of Social Networks"

Post-9/11, much attention is paid to Arabs, specifically Muslims, living in the US. However, Muslims do not constitute the largest number of Arabic-speakers in the United States: according to the Arab American Institute, 63% of Arab Americans are Christians. Following Kansas University Political Science Professor Michael Suleiman, I define “Arab Americans” as “the immigrants to North American from the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East and their descendents.” In the growing body of literature on Arab Americans, there are brief discussions on their religious affiliations. In addition, there are various studies conducted on traditional Arab Christian groups like the Caldeans, Copts, Maronites, and Melkites located in multiple cities across the United States in places like Detroit and New York. There is a lacuna in the scholarly literature, however, about Protestant Arab Christians, which constitute 10% of the Arab Christian population in the US. A growing number of Arabic-speaking Christians are Baptists.
This paper explores the reasons why Arab Christians in the Washington, DC area choose to attend the Arabic Baptist Church rather than one of the other thirteen Arab Christian congregations in the DC area. Relying on information from Baptist archives, the paper will give a brief history of the development of Arab Baptist Christians in the Middle East in general. Next, it will provide a demographic sketch of the Arabic Baptist Church in Washington, DC, explaining how the congregants of this church became Baptists. Finally, relying on congregational observation and personal interviews, it will explore the reasons why these Arab Christians attend this particular Baptist church rather than one of the other Arabic-speaking congregations in DC.
I suggest that while the religious, evangelical message of this congregation is one reason for church attendance, social networking is the primary motivator. First, as many congregants know each other from an Alliance congregation in Syria, the Arabic Baptist Church in DC provides a ready-made network of friends and family. Thus, congregants feel connected to their homeland despite being in a new country. Second, this social network provides a way for Arab Baptist Christians to find jobs and homes as many congregants rely on one another to financially establish themselves in the US. Third, through bi-annual conferences, this church provides a meeting ground for other Arabic-speaking Baptists, which creates a broader support base and increases social connections throughout the northeast. In particular, this congregation provides a space for youth to form friendships with other Arab Christians and to find potential marriage partners. Hence, the social and economic benefits reaped from this social network motivate members to attend the Arabic Baptist congregation rather than one of the other Arabic-speaking churches in the DC area.

Paper Presenter: Camila Pastor de Maria y Campos (CIDE-Mexico), "The Mashreq Unbound. Modernism and the ‘Discovery of America by the Turks"
The proposed ethnohistorical paper explores Middle Eastern migrant ideologies of migration and constructions of Latin America and Latin American populations in an effort to recognize migrant agency and investigate popular Middle Eastern imaginaries of global geopolitics. The current Western historiographic consensus on the Middle Eastern migrations to the Americas portrays the ascent of vulnerable populations into normative national narratives of progress and prosperity. ‘Immigrants’ settled in the new world and through hard labor and sacrifice, successfully transitioned ‘from peddlers to proprietors’, whose contributions to national affluence and cultural production are increasingly recognized by fellow neoliberal elites. I would like to complicate this trajectory through a contrapuntal exploration of two interrelated phenomena: the characterization of the migrants’ mission in the cultural production of the intellectual elite of the early migration on the one hand, and on the other, late twentieth century migrant practices of ‘racial’ and ‘civilizational’ distinction through ideologies of matrimonial alliance, narratives of domestic service, and the construction of ‘community’ memory in institutional settings through seminars and publications. While the socioeconomic and confessional diversity of these migrations afforded a panoply of trajectories and experiences among the migrant population, recurrent aesthetic and civilizational evaluations situate Mashreqi peoples and practices as modern explorers and rightful ‘conquerors’ of civilizationally less complex, racially less beautiful middle American natives. In the early twentieth century such judgments stem partially from growing Arab nationalisms, including the pan-Arab movement and the modernist ‘awakening’, the ‘nahda’, which situated ‘Arabs’ as both heirs to a glorious ancient civilization and cosmopolitan moderns. One hundred years later, this tradition intersects with migrant discourses of moral/civilizational superiority rooted in postcolonial Middle Eastern nationalisms and a Muslim ethos revitalized by regional reislamization and the globalization of Islam.